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Mol Microbiol. 1997 Jul;25(2):211-8.

Spontaneous duplication of a 661 bp element within a two-component sensor regulator gene causes phenotypic switching in colonies of Pseudomonas tolaasii, cause of brown blotch disease of mushrooms.

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Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK.


Spontaneous sectoring of Pseudomonas tolaasii colonies results in a phenotypic switch from the smooth, pathogenic form (designated 1116S) to the rough non-pathogenic form (designated 1116R). This phenotypic switch can also be induced by mutation of the pheN master regulatory locus, which encodes a 99 kDa protein with homology to the conserved family of sensor regulator proteins. Southern blot analysis of genomic DNA from 1116S and 1116R probed with a 3.4 kb Xhol-BamHI fragment containing the pheN gene has revealed restriction fragment length polymorphisms in the pheN locus of 1116R. In order to characterize the genetic basis of this variation, the pheN locus (designated pheN') was cloned from 1116R and its nucleotide sequence determined. A 661 bp duplication was identified within pheN' introducing a frameshift mutation in the predicted pheN open reading frame (ORF). A resulting predicted ORF of pheN' designated ORF2 encodes a polypeptide of 706 amino acid residues, with a predicted molecular weight of 77 kDa, and which lacks part of the PheN sensor domain. Southern blot analysis of genomic DNA using a probe within the duplicated sequence revealed the presence of two bands in 1116R but only one band in the 1116S form. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of 25 independently isolated 1116R sectors using primers flanking the duplication site in pheN confirmed the presence of the duplicated 661 bp sequence within this region in all of the sectors and the absence of the duplicated sequence in spontaneous revertants from 1116R to 1116S. Northern blot analysis of RNA from 1116S and 1116R using a pheN probe showed that ORF2 was transcribed in the 1116R form. The presence of a truncated PheN protein in 1116R was verified by Western blot analysis of total cell protein using a LemA antiserum, which revealed the presence of 99kDa and 77kDa cross-reactive bands in 1116S and 1116R respectively. It is concluded that the spontaneous colony-sectoring event that results in the 1116R phenotypic variant form of P. tolaasii arises owing to a 661 bp DNA duplication within the 5' end of the pheN gene, which results in loss of the periplasmic sensor domain of PheN and elimination of normal PheN function.

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